‘Cobalt Blue’ by Sachin Kundalkar

cobaltThere are so many literary gems in our regional languages that we miss either because we do not know the language or somehow we tend to look down on them. Now that I think of it, many of the books that I absolutely loved in the recent past have all been translations. This book was originally written in Marathi and translated beautifully into English by Jerry Pinto.

A typical middle class Marathi family , an empty room with a separate entrance that once was the abode of the grandparents, where the smell of amritanjan still lingers. In comes an unconventional paying guest, changing the lives of two siblings, the younger son and the daughter of the family.

The book is in two parts , first one a sort of conversation where the brother Tanay talks to the protagonist, taking us through their relationship and how it ended. The second part, as a story told by Anuja, his sister after she comes back from a six month long elopement with the same guy. What makes the story interesting is how each relationship builds, without either of them knowing the other part. One is left to wonder in between what sort of guy the painter is. He is introduced as a loner, with no close friends or relatives, living pretty much on his own.

Some contradictions are quite interesting and is reflective of how we, as a society is changing, while trying not to change too much. Anuja is portrayed as a non-conventional girl, who goes on treks and rock climbing, volunteers for a pro-environment organization and the like. Her family seems to have accepted this about her. But, in the true Indian middle class  style, she is expected to stay away from the male paying guest. That she finds her avenues is another matter altogether.

More interesting is how  two boys spending their time together is taken for granted. Tanay’s frequent visits and the long time that he spends in the guest’s room is never questioned, there is not an iota of doubt in his family’s minds. His angst at discovering that he is not inclined to the conventional manner of love, the casual relationships that he gets into and the lonely world that people of a different sexual orientation inhabits, is portrayed in a very matter of fact manner. I particularly loved the way the author has handled this subject in such a sensitive manner. The thoughts of both Tanay and Anuja brings out their characters so beautifully, while their common love stays an enigma to them as well as the readers.

I was curious about the author after having read through the book, so mature were the thoughts and treatment. It was a mild but pleasant shock to discover that he started writing this book when he was 20 and completed it at 22. Wisdom need not be correlated to age, I realize.

A big thanks to Hrishikesh  who gifted this to me. But for him, I might not have even heard about it

Verdict : A sensitive subject handled very subtly. This one is for you if you like simple , but elegant prose, well sketched characters and multi shaded relationships

4/5

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About wanderlustathome

Dabbling in numbers for a living while dreaming of words all the while.

Posted on September 18, 2013, in 4*, Fiction, Marathi, Translation. Bookmark the permalink. 10 Comments.

  1. This sounds interesting, but not the kind of read I am looking for at the moment. I would like to give it a try sometime.

    BTW, your review reminded me of a book called See Paris For Me by Priti Aisola, somehow. Don’t know why, but it did. I haven’t read the book, though my colleagues gifted it to me a couple of years back. Have heard similar things about that book, too. Have you read it?

  2. Unfortunately this book does not have a Kindle version it seems. Or else I’d have started right away. Now I will have to wait. :
    Looks a very promising book.

  3. Vaayadi Pennu ;)

    I’ve just started reading it and indeed it holds true from the word go.. 🙂

  4. I’m interested in reading some Marathi books. This sounds like a good suggestion!

  5. I just completed this book. Read it in two hours and yes, the Count sent this book to me. My response is rather mixed. I so wished that another narration by the painter would have put many things in perspective. And, I also found the painter a very stereotypical guy – loner, unconventional, brooding, aloof, very religious about his space and discipline and so on. From the beginning he seemed attraction worthy and I also thought that he enjoyed the best of two diverse worlds and was cunning enough to keep his different shades completely compartmental and separate. I admire the writer who very sensitively handles the topic of bisexuality, homosexuality and young adult fantasies but I felt that the book lacked a strong base and after completing the read, I did feel that it ended abruptly. Hence, mixed feelings.

    Joy always,
    Susan

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